Using a Notebook for Forms and Communication

One of the most successful means of communicating with others who rarely gather in one spot at the same time is to use a notebook, which is left in a central location in the house or at the bedside, especially if your parent is now in a facility. It maintains a written record of information shared and affords everyone an opportunity to participate.

Home health-care professionals use this format to leave instructions and information for other members of the home health-care team, caregivers, and family members. This could include instructions for a new aspect of care, information about progress, any new issues that have been noted, or requests for information.

The notebook should contain some very basic forms for information such as emergency contact information for your parents, caregivers, healthcare team members, and other family members.

It should contain a list of current medications, allergies, and basic medical history. Other information pertinent to the current situation can be added. For instance, if your parent is a hospice patient it could include the DNR form (Do Not Resuscitate) and information as to the mortuary and others to contact in the event of the passing of your parent.

The notebook should be divided into sections to make information easier to access. The forms discussed above could be kept in the front or in the back and noted by an index tab. A section specifically for information that should be given to a physician should be included. A separate section could be devoted to communication between family members only or it could be included in a larger section devoted to communication among all persons involved in the care or visitors.

As an example, your sister has visited and has a question about how much Mom is eating at lunch time. She would start a thread in the notebook and the caregiver who is there at lunchtime would answer. If the home-health nurse was visiting and noticed that the calorie count was low, he might leave some instructions for the caregiver to try adding a supplemental shake midmorning. Your brother comes later in the day and adds that he'll bring Mom some of his wife's special custard pudding to see if she'll eat that. It's full of eggs, milk, and not too much sugar. Mom always liked it; maybe she'll eat it now.

Turns out Mom likes the pudding, eats it every day now, and is getting her appetite back and building some strength. In real time, this information was being missed; by using a notebook, Mom's needs were expressed and met.

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